The last time I attempted to have this conversation in an open forum, I was attacked by feminist and ultra-liberal PC police. Instead of having a logical discussion and exchange of thoughts, the response was knee jerk emotional mantras that centered around “violence is never the answer”, “you should never hit a woman” and “men should just walk away”. It seems like when it pertains to domestic violence situations, the usual “I am woman, hear me roar-I’m a goddess-I’m a strong woman” speak turns into “women are weak, helpless damsels when it comes to dealing with big-ole-bad- misogynistic men”, when in reality nothing could be further from the truth.
Statistically speaking, the overwhelming majority of the time men are the abusers in domestic violence situations. Having witnessed my father BEAT his girlfriend; I know this first hand (more on that bastard later). I think it’s safe to say universally; men are physically stronger than woman. Therefore, most would say, the burden is upon men not to become violent or retaliate violently in any given domestic situation. You know the “with power comes responsibility” spill. I think this is the normal mindset and thought process of the populace, ok I got it. Enter ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith’s domestic violence rant. In a nutshell his message was “domestic violence is wrong and you should never hit a woman but it’s also the woman’s responsibility not to provoke a man that could cause or initiate domestic violence situations to occur”. OH MY GOD THE HORROR!
Granted Smith’s (who has since apologized repeatedly) attempt at communicating this message was at the very least cringe worthy but I understood the message very clear. His monologue came as a result of the NFL suspending Baltimore Ravens’ RB Ray Rice for two games without pay for his arrest in February of this year. Rice was arrested for domestic violence charges against his then fiancé. Video footage shows Rice dragging his fiancé (Janay Palmer) off an elevator after striking her unconscious. Palmer was also arrested but charges were dropped. According to Rice’s layer “Ray wasn’t the first person that hit and Ray was getting repeatedly hit, but just Ray hit harder, fired one back and hit harder”. If Janay Palmer was the aggressor and stuck first, all things being equal, should the charges against her been dropped? If this was two gay men in this situation would the charges have been dropped against the weaker man? Or what about two lesbian women; would it had just been dismissed as a cat fight?
In the words of Whoopie Goldberg, “if you don’t want to get hit, don’t hit nobody”. This is not making an excuse for domestic violence; this is saying you need to take responsibility for your own actions. Why isn’t anyone questioning, critiquing and psychoanalyzing the provoking actions of women in these situations? Why is it when you attempt to question, critique and psychoanalyze women’s actions in these types of incidences you are met with outrage, declarations of misogyny and “oh so you’re saying she was asking for it”?
Can We Be Honest?
During a domestic violence call to 911 that result in the police showing up, one of two things will occur? If there is no evidence of domestic battery or assault, the man will be asked to leave, if there is evidence the man will be arrested. Who doesn’t know this? People can be conniving, deceitful and dishonest and the last time I checked, women are people. Some women can be conniving, deceitful and dishonest. Some women are the aggressors and do provoke men by putting their hands on the men first; but does that make it okay because women are the weaker sex and for the most part have the police and court system on their side? Yet we can’t admit or talk about this because “it’s blaming the victim”. Now if your first thought is to zero in and focus on real legitimate cases of innocent women being brutalized by the men in their lives and not lend a thought to what was just stated, then this conversation isn’t for you.
In the case of Ray Rice and Janay Palmer, if she in fact did strike him first, what gave her that right? If your next thought is to say “well it’s not an issue because a woman is not as physically strong as a man”, my reply would be what if the woman is the physically strong and powerful Serena Williams? What if she is dating a man and decides (out of anger) to punch her male partner in the face; does he get to defend himself? Or does he get his ass whipped because a man should never hit a woman?
For those that say, “A female can never provoke a male into violence. He should just walk away” I call horse shit. Need an example? Watch the video below please.
This type of behavior from some females just doesn’t go away because they graduate high school. This is learned dysfunctional behavior that can and will possibly lead to domestic violence situations in the future.
You Can’t Have It Both Ways
If a man cannot be provoked and never hit a woman, then a woman cannot be provoked and strike a man. The world laughed as Solange Knowles attempted to repeatedly attack and hit her brother-in-law Jay Z in an elevator. The only thing that kept her and Jay Z safe was a body guard holding the aggressor Solange back. Why the societal double standard to the point where Seth McFarlane gets criticism for his musing concerning domestic violence on his show Family Guy but Saturday Night Live gets praise and accolades for musing domestic violence concerning Solange and Jay Z? This is an example of how lightly our society takes domestic violence when it concerns females being the aggressors. When anyone attempts to shed light on these double standards they get marginalized.
Red Flags and Taking Responsibility
I never met my father until I was 8 years old. During my early childhood I heard the stories of how violent and abusive my father was. No I’m not talking about a slap here or a push there, nope; these were beatings. In addition to the beatings, there were random acts of violence. He once pushed my mother down a large hill after slapping her during a family picnic. He once burned her with an iron and he once pushed her out of his moving car in the street while she was pregnant.
There is another reason why the Ray Rice situation raises flags for me. During a conversation years ago with my mother about her earlier dealings with my father, she revealed something. Before she moved in with my father, before she became pregnant and before she got married to him, my father showed her his true colors while they were dating. One night my father become angry with my mother for not being ready on time for a date; the result? He punched her in the face. She continued to date and months later, she married him. Ray Rice rendered his fiancé unconscious with a punch to the face. Janay Palmer married Ray Rice one day after Rice was indicted by a grand jury on third-degree aggravated assault for striking her unconscious.
The public is now upset at the “slap on the wrist” two game suspension the NFL has given Rice. What the public is not talking about is the punishment came after a request for leniency to the NFL commissioner by way of Rice’s wife Janay Palmer. The now Mrs. Janay Palmer Rice stated “this was a onetime incident that hadn’t happened before or since”. She urged the commissioner “to not ruin Rice’s image and career with his sanctions”. The pitch forks and torches media and public are upset at the NFL for not taking domestic violence more seriously but could it be argued that Mrs. Janay Palmer Rice is the one who isn’t taking domestic violence seriously? The harsher punishment the NFL could have possibly given Rice was negated by Janay Palmer Rice’s pleas of mercy to the NFL commissioner. Maybe her thinking was that any long term suspension would negatively impact her and her family financially? Is anyone asking the question as to why she would marry a man that knocked her unconscious and dragged her across a floor? Maybe someone did, and maybe she sees dollar signs instead of dignity. Maybe she thinks like my mother did decades ago. When I asked my mother why she continued dating my father after he punched her in the face, she stated “I felt it was my fault and thought he wouldn’t do it again”.
The years of violence and abuse took its toll on my mother. Unbeknownst to my father, months previously my mother had planned our escape. She decided one night after being abused it was time to implement her plan. While my father was in the bed asleep, my mother advised me to stand in the corner in the other room and not move. She proceeded to go into the dark bedroom with a loaded shotgun, aimed it at my father and pulled the trigger. I was allowed to stay with relatives until my grandmother and uncle bailed my mother out of jail. My father survived and shortly thereafter he and my mother divorced. We moved back home to live with grandma and my father moved on to commit more acts of abuse upon women.
The point of this was not to undermine women who suffer at the hands of abusive men. My two arguments are to point out that first; our words and actions have consequences. When we make light of situations like with what happened between Solange and Jay Z, we tell girls and women that it’s okay to attack and hit men because you will not be held accountable for your violent actions. We also say regardless if you are the aggressor you are still the victim. In my opinion this is a very dangerous and careless message to send.
Secondly, we all have a responsibility to understand that people treat us the way we allow them to treat us. When someone shows you who they really are, you have to pay attention. Thinking you can change someone by investing and fostering a relationship with them after they have shown you their violent tendencies is your decision. In no way am I advocating that in returned a person deserves to get abused; however I am saying the person does have to take some responsibility for purposely committing to a potentially violent and deadly situation.